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What About Juvenile Delinquency?

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What About Juvenile Delinquency?

Published 1955

Jim leaves the gang after it attacks his father, and joins other teenagers at City Hall to argue against the imposition of a curfew. Drama filmed in Lawrence, Kansas.

Run time 10:41
Producer Centron Productions
Sponsor N/A
Audio/Visual Sd, B&W



This moral tale looks into teen transgression on a local level and shows a community's effort to come to terms with the problem. A tough, sneering gang roughs up an adult who happens to be the father of Jimmy, a gang member not involved in the beating. Although the gang threatens Jimmy, he goes to City Hall with some other high-school students so that their voice can be heard as part of the debate about a proposed curfew for teens. Like the other "Discussion Problems in Group Living" films, this one ends without resolution and a challenge to the audience: "What would you do?"
Although the film is perhaps too well-intentioned to be credible, its sincerity and openness make it stand out from so many other melodramatic and theatricalized depictions of juvenile delinquency. It also positions delinquency as a local issue about which people can and should talk and act, rather than as a recurring generational issue without a cure.

Ken Smith sez: A jazzy soundtrack plays as a gang of punks rough up a bald guy in a Buick. It turns out the guy is the dad of "Jamie," one of the members of the gang. Jamie gets mad, rips his lightning-bolt insignia off his jacket, and joins forces with the "good kids." The punks race after them in an exciting (for an instructional film) chase sequence over stock music you'll recognize from the old Superman series. They all end up at a town council meeting where the good teens tell the adults "Teenagers aren't all delinquents," and complain that they're being treated "as if we're a bunch of freaks or something." The film ends as the narrator asks, "What would you do?" This production reduces a complex social problem to a narrative melodrama, but at least it's quick-paced. Possibly remade in 1959.

Danger Lurks


Reviewer: pkkms - favoritefavoritefavorite - June 22, 2012
Subject: JD
A juvenile gang that targets writing instruments and wears their colors like parking lot attendants.....interesting
Reviewer: 23_skidoo - favoritefavoritefavoritefavorite - July 19, 2007
Subject: Some kids will do anything for a pencil . . .
First, let me say that I have just recently discovered the Internet Archive and think that Prelinger Archives in particular is one of the greatest things ever invented. It's absolutely fantastic going through these old little educationals and industrials that reveal so much about the culture and attitudes of a bygone era. This film in particular is culturally and historically significant. I don't know why, but in the boom of industrial/educational film production in the U.S. following World War II, it seemed the Midwest dominated the field, with Coronet in Chicago, Calvin Co. in Kansas City, and Centron in Lawrence, KS. I particularly like the Centron films. "What About Juvenile Delinquency?" is a dramatic classroom film (more dramatic than most other Centron productions made around this time) on the subject of wayward youth and what to do about it. It was shot in late 1954, at a time when American authorities and educators were really taking notice of the rising juvenile delinquency problem, and Hollywood movies like "The Wild One" and "Blackboard Jungle" were first coming out to capitalize on this issue. This short, as one reviewer pointed out, plays like a mini-JD film.

Jamie is a proud member of the local gang, until he finds out they mugged his dad for his "pencil" (actually a pen). Jamie is angry of course, so hands in his resignation (he rips his flimsy lightning-bolt patch off and hands it to the gang's leader). After this, there's a tense scene where Jamie is torn literally between two peer groups---the greasy punks and the lacquered dorks. The dorks (or 'good kids') warn him that city council is holding a meeting on juvenile delinquency downtown and are going to attempt to "stop" the problem by upping the age requirements for drivers licenses and other horrendous things. They invite Jamie to come along with them to explain his position to the city council, and he does. A brief "car chase" ensues, but the gang doesn't make it into city hall in time to stop Jamie from talking. In typical Centron style, the film concludes open-endedly, with the narrator asking, "What would you do if you were Jamie? What would you say to the mayor on the subject of juvenile delinquency?" Not an easy question for choolkids of 1955, nor for those of today.

The film has some good camp value, and the bots on MST3K did a good job with it a few years back. Fun can also be had spotting regular Centron actors, including Jamie's mother who is also the mom in "Cindy Goes to a Party"; Bret Waller who plays a student council president here and later was the star of "The Trouble Maker"; and Jamie's dad who is played by the father who says he has no objetion to "a little drink before dinner" in "What About Drinking?" Those familiar with Lawrence, KS might recognize a hallway and front lawn scene at Lawrence High School, and the Douglas County Courthouse doubling for City Hall.

According to Centron production records, the film was produced by Art Wolf, directed by Herk Harvey, and written by Art Wolf and Trudy Travis, with photography by Norm Stuewe and editing by Chuck Lacey. Sound recording was handled by Chuck Lacey and Art Wolf. All in all, a good little film with laughs and historical intrigue. The first movie I saw on this site. Recommended.
Reviewer: ERD - favoritefavoritefavoritefavorite - February 17, 2006
Subject: Not a simple solution
Thought provoking film for the 1955 teenage viewer. The problem of juvenile delinquency has escalated in our present world, and the solution does not seem so easy to completely solve.
Reviewer: Spuzz - favoritefavoritefavoritefavorite - September 3, 2005
Subject: Well, what about it?
Hyper acting Jamie goes out to meet his hoodlum gang at the malt shop, (their insignia looks to me like the Flash Gordon symbol). When he gets there, he finds out that the gang jumped his Dad on the way over to the shoppe! With Anger, Jamie rips off the patch and resovles never to join the teen gang again! That's good, because it just so happens that the city hall is trying to bar the kids from doing anything because of all this violence. The other clean cut kids try to convince Jamie to come, the gang says he better think twice about doing something like that.. as if the City Hall will prevent them from continuing being hoodlums. What will Jamie do?

Fun little film, with the bonus of recognizing some actors from other Centron films (Like the Mother from 'Cindy Goes To A Party' and the Ripley-Like kid (who's now president of the Student Coucil!) from 'The Trouble Maker'.
Reviewer: criticalthinker - favoritefavoritefavoritefavorite - June 4, 2004
Subject: A very freudian drama !
This is movie is an evolution in Juvenile Delinquency communication. It is subtile in it's portrait of the human psyche.

As a matter of fact, "What About Juvenile Delinquency?" presents the three basic elements of the psychanalytical construction of the human mind. The Ego, prensented as the main character, the subconscious as the immoral gang which the main character leave at some point in this totally educationnal short. And the superego, which is represented by the football team captain, the senior class president and finally the head of student council. All litlle perfect kid's what a coincidence, the superego is the moral instance of the human psyche therefore it is guided by perfection.

Now, are ego at some point of the movie is asked to take a stance between the subconcious and the
superego. The movie using this superb freudian construction accentuates the desire of the viewer to identify himself to the principal character ! Because, the viewer (you and me) is most of the time living the reality through the ego. Hint, at the end of the movie, they ask you what would you do in this situation ! The director expected immediate identification to the principal character.

People, please, if you have knowledge in psychanalytical psychology please be aware of the subversive usage of it especially in educational videos made for high schools !

In conclusion, good video, nice construction, but please, this is a shitload of propaganda.
Reviewer: Christine Hennig - favoritefavoritefavorite - December 24, 2002
Subject: What About Juvenile Deliquency?
This film plays like a condensed version of a JD exploitation film. Teenaged Jimmy is a proud member of the local JD gangÃÂÃÂuntil the gang unknowingly rolls his father. He tries to quit the gang in a tense confrontation that is interrupted by a bunch of "nice kids" who want Jimmy to convince the city council not to pass a bunch of restrictive laws against teenagers as a response to a recent spate of delinquency. The film ends with a "what would you do?" ending designed to spark discussion. As campy as a typical JD film.
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: ***. Weirdness: **. Historical Interest: ****. Overall Rating: ***. Also available on Mental Hygiene and Mystery Science Theater 3000, Episode #518: The Atomic Brain.
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